NTSB reports on barge allision with railroad bridge

Starboard quarter of Gayle Force with pre-cast cement structures on deck and tugboat Maverick in background. Starboard quarter of Gayle Force with pre-cast cement structures on deck and tugboat Maverick in background. Video frame capture courtesy of Norfolk Southern Corporation

OCTOBER 7, 2016 — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has its issued its report on the April 26, 2015 allision of a 220 ft flat bed barge, the Gayle Force, carrying 2,260 long tons of large pre-cast concrete sections, with the Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge #7 over the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake, VA.

The allision caused $1.8 million in damage to the bridge and stopped rail traffic for nearly 36 hours. Damage to the barge was negligible. No one was injured, and there was no pollution associated with the accident.

The Gayle Force was under tow by the 3,000 hp tugboat Simone, owned by Tradewinds Towing LLC, St. Augustine, FL.

In its report, NTSB says that the captain of the tug that had Simone captain did not plan for the bridge transit in accordance with his company's policies and procedures. He did not have a clear view astern, so he relied on the mate to assist him in properly aligning the tow for the passage. But he gave no instruction to the mate.

The tugboat Maverick was provided to assist the tow for the bridge transits of the Elizabeth River, yet the captain of Simone did not use the assist tugboat or ask for the Maverick captain's advice despite the latter's extensive experience in these waters. The Maverick captain was not given any directions, and the assist tugboat was placed in a location where his view was obstructed.

Furthermore, Simone's captain did not review Coast Pilot 3 prior to getting under way. As a result of inadequate planning, he did not take into account the current set in the vicinity of the bridge.

Although the company had procedures in place regarding bridge transits, it did not have a system for verifying its crews were following those procedures.

If the captain had planned and briefed the bridge transit as required, it may have prevented the allision.

Read the NTSB report HERE


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